Sunday, September 09, 2007

An Educational Perspective

Here I sit; back in the canned cool of Hôtel le Sahel, surrounded by those members of Cameroonian society with email addresses and the well-heeled adventurers that choose this characterless hostelry in which to conceal themselves from the plight of the poverty riddled masses huddled outside its whitewashed walls.

Back beneath the solitary bright light of this 3 horse town for a weekend of English conversation and a hops based beverage or two.

The first real, proper, genuine teaching week has been and gone and the fears that kept me from sleeping last Sunday were all but unfounded. Yes, class sizes were on the wrong side of ridiculous, but the novelty of having a "nassara" being a prat at the front of the class, all in the name of education seemed to keep them entertained and that's got to be part of the battle. 139 has, thus far, been the mark to beat but given there are still 40-odd children missing from that class, the jury is still out ...

The good news: we are three teachers and possibly 4 as of tomorrow. There's no-one teaching Maths, Chemistry, Physics, Technology or Biology but they're not very important really, are they. I mean Maths ... who needs Maths? Shocking really but I guess if a teacher gets here before the school year's out it'll be a good thing.

Biggest challenges so far: teaching in the rain. Yes the roof leaks a bit but it's the noise that does it. I think the heavens were being drained for their annual inspection last week. Tuesday to Thursday saw deluges of biblical proportions and the tin-roofed classrooms became war zones. The noise was unreal and for all the wild gesticulating I was doing, I don't think any of the kids are any closer to fluency. Big Challenge 2: Bingo. Explaining the concept of the game to a group of children who have never been asked to think for themselves, who can't understand why anyone would want to do such a thing, in English - a language which is thin on the ground at the best of times and non-existent the rest - was novel to say the least. It took 90 minutes but I feel it was 90 minutes well spent.

And that's the thing. Here they are trying to be bilingual, studying from books that are so far above their knowledge level as to be demoralising, in classes the size of entire schools back home and with nothing but a blackboard on which one cannot write, with no books. Each class gets 5 hours of my time per week. That's 300 minutes of English per class. If classes were 100 strong, each student would get 3 minutes of learning time per week; 30 effective teaching weeks = 90 minutes per year, assuming of course that classes start on time, I do no speaking, each student attends every class and there are only 100 students per class. With none of the assumptions being true, I'm not quite sure what they're hoping to achieve. Bilingualism in 90 minutes ... if they find the answer it may just solve all their problems.

A factual outpouring from this font of general inanity; it doesn't happen often and normal service will be resumed. Gutteral rumblings have once again forced my hand, and so, like a malicious croquet fanatic I will post once more and calm the beast within.


  1. Been a bit slack recently on the catchup. (as opposed to ketchup). Had a fun day with Greg, Tim, Oli and partners where there are them. Good wholesome fun all round. Going back to art school 1 night a week starting soon, can't wait to wet my brush so to speak, see if I still have something up my sleeve. And then there is the rugger.At least you don't have to endure the Englich performance. Pathetic really. This year I am a kiwi so I stand a chance of being on the winning team! tootle pip.

  2. Your youngest and also eldest sister7:03 pm

    A teacher, teaching in the Roon? Shirley not! Glad you are busy (er) though and that you have been let loose on the kidlets- all 17 million of them. Funny you should mention the kids filling in the road- they do that on Wall street to, but here they don't ask for 'cadeaux' they just knick it. Bastards. That was my umbrella. Speak soon, lots and lots of love, T xxxxxxxx


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